The political action committee that former President Donald J. Trump uses to pay his legal bills faced such staggering costs this year that it requested a refund of a $60 million contribution it made to another group, who are backing the Republican front-runner, according to two people. familiar with the matter.
The decision signals a potential cash crisis for Mr. Trump, who has so far refused to pay his own massive bills outright and has also avoided creating a legal defense fund for himself and people who have been implicated in the various investigations related to him.
It comes as Mr Trump campaigns, faces charges in two jurisdictions and soon potentially a third, while also paying the legal fees of a number of witnesses who are close to him or who work for him.
It is unclear how much money was refunded.
But repayment was sought when the political action committee, Save America, spent more than $40 million in legal fees incurred by Mr. Trump and is testifying in various lawsuits related to him this year alone, according to another person familiar with the matter.
The numbers will be part of the Save America Federal Election Commission’s filing, which is expected to be released late Monday.
That $40 million was in addition to the $16 million Save America spent in the previous two years on legal fees. Since then, Mr. Trump has been indicted twice and has expanded the size of his legal team, and his two co-defendants in the case were related to his withholding of classified material working for him. The total legal expenses are about 56 million dollars.
The $40 million figure was reported earlier by Washington Post.
The PAC was the entity in which Mr. Trump had parked the more than $100 million raised when he sought small-dollar donations after losing the 2020 election. Mr. Trump claimed he needed the support to combat widespread fraud in the race. Officials, including some with his campaign, found no evidence of widespread fraud.
Sir. Trump used some of that $100 million for other politicians and political activities in 2022, but he also used it to pay more than $16 million in legal fees, most of it related to investigations into him, at least $10 million of which was for his own personal charges.
Save America started 2023 with just $18 million in cash on hand, less than half of what was spent on legal bills this year.
Campaign finance experts disagree on whether Mr. Trump is even able to continue using the PAC to pay for his personal legal bills since he became the candidate last November.
Mr. Trump has long told associates that lawyers and other people contracted to work for him must do so for free because they get free publicity. And he has told several staffers that legal defense funds are only organized by people guilty of crimes, according to people who heard the remarks.
Earlier this year, Mr. Trump to divert a larger percentage of every dollar he raised online away from his campaign and into his PAC, which he has used to pay for his lawyers. At the start of the 2024 campaign, Mr. Trump spent 99 cents of every dollar raised online for his campaign. But he shifted that formula to now give only 90 cents to the campaign and 10 cents to the PAC, which has served as a kind of de facto legal fund.
The move drew sharp criticism from some of his rivals. Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, called it “disgraceful” on CNN during an interview in June.
“He goes to middle class men and women in this country and they donate $15, $25, $50, $100 because they believe in Donald Trump and they want him to be president again,” Mr. Christie. “They are not giving the money so he can pay his personal legal fees.”
Still, the increased amount derived from Mr. Trump’s campaign cannot possibly begin to cover the high costs of legal fees incurred by the candidate and his staff. And whatever money the super PAC returned to the political action committee to cover legal bills, in theory, means less money is spent supporting Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
A spokesman for Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Steven Cheung, would not comment on the refund request. But regarding the overall cost of lawyers, he said: “The armed Justice Department has continued to go after innocent Americans because they worked for President Trump and they know they have no legitimate case.”
He characterized the legal actions against Mr. Trump and his allies as “heinous actions by Joe Biden’s cronies” and said the PAC had helped cover legal costs to “protect these innocent people from financial ruin and prevent their lives from being completely destroyed.”
A spokesman for the super PAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Despite having his political action committee pay his legal fees, Mr. Trump, a wealthy businessman and celebrity, said Saturday at a rally in Erie, Pa., that he would spend his own money on his campaign if he had to.